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  • 20 Mar 2014 3:32 PM | Lora Bigcraft (Administrator)

    One Movements Success is a Victory for All Others

    By: Parrish L. Stahl

    With Black History Month behind us and Women’s History Month ongoing we are surrounded by reminders of the sacrifices made by individuals in both movements.  All civil rights movements have some things in common like passion, conviction and a strong burning desire to change society for the better.  It is interesting if we look back in history we see how different movement untimely are intertwined because of their common goals of human respect, a level playing field and opportunities to excel and build a better future.

    All individual movements that are successful spent time educating people about their situations.   Reaching out to open-minded potential allies, slowly but surely eased people’s fears and that is how we build momentum in any movement.  It is true people fear what they do not understand.

    Martin Luther King stepped through a door that Frederick Douglas cracked open.  Some individuals are heroes in multiple areas.  Helen Keller worked for woman’s equality and the rights of people with disabilities.  Ed Roberts, who many consider the father of the Independent living movement, needed curb cuts and an iron lung to attend Berkley in the late 1960’s.  That advocacy and his leadership led to hundreds of Centers for Independent Living all over the world. 

    Jackie Robinson was the first African America to play in the majors, but his struggles were the catalysts for all sports to be opened.  Do not players from Japan, Latin America and the rest of the world still owe him a debt?  In the news right now openly Gay players in multiple sports are being signed with celebration by the vast majority.  The most talked about aspect is how can they help the teams?    What a proud time to be a sports fan. 

    The Tuskegee airman proved that an African American could be among the best fliers in the world.  Every pilot that was different from the norm that was hired in the decades that followed should be in there debt.  History proves that fair societies eventually get around to doing the right thing.  America and our community have more to do; how fast things evolve is up to you.  Be proud if you believe in fairness because you’re on the right side of history.

  • 22 Jan 2014 4:21 PM | Lora Bigcraft (Administrator)

    Fill Yourself with the Spirit of Giving When People Really Need Help

    By: Parrish L. Stahl

    Now that most of our holiday decorations are packed away in attics,

    basements, crawl spaces or in the back of that already overloaded, used to

     be, walk- in- closet; most of us settle back into our daily routines.  The charitable feelings so prevalent during the last part of the year give way to

     the stress of leftover holiday bills and the almost inevitable shortage of resources most households experience after the celebrations are over.

    Having extra people over is a joyous part of the holiday season, but having additional bodies around forces stretched budgets to come close to the breaking point.  Extra months to feed, gifts and use of additional household supplies are all realities that families face.

    Does it not seem strange that efforts to help each other tend to diminish

     when we need each other the most?  Do you know a person or a family that could use some help?  One of the most noble of New Year’s resolutions is to

     do what we can when we can to help others. 

    Organizations that help people can always use supplies and household items; if your family has a windfall pass the items on.  If your Mom gets you that deodorant you hate or Aunt Mary provides you with perfectly good

     aftershave that you happen to be allergic to, these well-meaning gifts

     have the potential to help those in need.

    Many churches and non-profits collect items we all use all year long.  Ask around and you may be able to have a major positive effect on families that need your help.  Let’s face it, giving feels good no matter when it happens.

  • 01 Nov 2013 9:25 AM | Lora Bigcraft (Administrator)

    Remembering Who Our Allies Are

    By: Parrish L. Stahl

    One of the greatest moments in life is discovering where your passion lies.  Some of us are lucky and find out when we are extremely young.  Such is the case when someone knows they want to work with animals for instance. 

    There are always questions to ask ourselves.  Like, will this be a hobby, a

    career or both?  What steps will it take to set up and eventually reach goals? 

     Sometimes life happens and we end up working outside our passions until

    we are much older.  This might be someone who has always had an artistic talent but waits until they are long retired to fully explore that side of themselves.  Life is a timeline with many stops and starts along the way.  Whatever part of the timeline you are on, one thing is certain; you will need friends and allies.  Part of the beauty of being human is that journeys differ

    and vary, but most of us want desperately to help each other.

    Does it really matter at what stage we truly learn to love and understand how powerful our personal passions are?  Do not we sometimes put up our own barriers?  Far too often we hear healthy people with many decades of active

    life in front of them say, If I were younger, stronger, smarter, thinner and the list goes on….. Do you ever wonder why we spend so much of our lives trying

     to talk ourselves out of things?  Fear is a normal thing, but man, it is a lousy motivator. 

    One advantage of being a little older is that it is much easier to understand what and who you need to reach goals.  Almost everyone has access to

    endless information.  Experience teaches us that allies can be a filter for

    sifting out what you really need. Why are public entities like libraries, non-profits & museums busier than ever?  Could it be among the many reasons

     that people are eager to explore their options in life? 

    If you are exploring and looking for reasons why you can reach for a goal, remember to get some help.  There are people that are charged with and

     make a career out of helping other people reach for goals. 

    So often we hear I do not have any help.  That is not necessarily so.  Everyone has help out there.  Sometimes people need assistance learning how to seek help out.  When people learn to come together and within the imperfect systems we have to work with; they do extraordinary things.  Chances are

    you have numerous allies in this world that you have never imagined are in

    your corner.  Negative energy breeds negativity.  Positive energy on the

    other hand is infectious and spreads through your life like a cleansing wildfire.

    If you are planning the next stage of your life, it makes sense to make goal number one to have a positive attitude.  Next list who your allies are; you

    may be pleasantly surprised.

  • 23 May 2013 2:38 PM | Lora Bigcraft (Administrator)

    America’s Growing Pains bring out the Best in People

    By:  Parrish L. Stahl

    Recently the movie 42 came out which chronicles the life and struggles the legendary Jackie Robison, the first African American to play in the major leagues.  Whether you love the game of baseball or not this is a movie everyone should see.  Baseball is part of the fabric of America and during hard times the game is there to say in part to the world, that the health of America over its history; has often been tied to the game.   Excluding African Americans or any deserving athlete was wrong; and thus America was wrong.  Jackie Robinson was a great ball player, but by all accounts he was a good and brave human being.  He literally made so many around him change their minds and see injustice because of the person he was.  Every player and person that followed no matter what their race or individual struggles had doors open because of him.  Our president is our president because of every person who came before him.

    Are not people that open doors of any kind a path of righteousness for our country?  Jason Collins may be the first openly gay player in the NBA but many insiders say he is not the first.  He is the first one to be brave enough to announce to the world publicly who he is.  The response to his announcement has been overwhelmingly positive.  Is not America ready to do the right thing on a variety of civil rights fronts?

    Ed Roberts, who many people call the father of the Independent Living Movement, started the first Center for Independent Living in Berkley, California in the 1960’s.  His message of access, right to choices and working to end discrimination had so many things in common with Jackie Robison and Jason Collins, but what stands out is the bravery it takes to be one of the firsts or the few.  Are not we all better off because of growing pains and the struggles we all endure?  Sometimes people and movements get complacent.  We need to remember that Jackie, Jason and Ed were a beginning; we owe it to them to keep the world moving forward.  What can you do help with what is a continuing struggle?  Can you share your knowledge of how far we have come, but also understand that there is a long road ahead? 

  • 27 Mar 2013 9:43 AM | Lora Bigcraft (Administrator)

    One positive aspect of the internet is that we have instant access to vast quantities of useful statistics and information.  For lots of us however, there are just too many statistics and not enough discussions of why numbers trend a certain way.  It should trouble Americans deeply that according to government labor data, of the 29 million working-age Americans, who are over 16 years old, with a disability, only about 5.2 million are employed.  Even those of us that are mathematically challenged can determine that is only about eighteen percent.

    What is the deal with the other eighty-two percent?  We all know there are people that cannot work at all.  Some disabilities are so relentless that they take every ounce of physical, emotional and spiritual strength to deal with.  Maybe the right thing to say is we should not judge our fellow human beings, but that is easier said than done when a person with a bad back claims a disability; is not working, and rides a Harley-Davidson up and down the road.  Even if some disabilities are fraudulent, every person’s battle with disability is different.  The other problem with judging is that there are many more invisible disabilities than those that can be seen with the naked eye.  If someone says they are disabled, who are we to judge?

    There are safety nets built in to the Social Security system, like the ticket to work, trial work period, and protection from medical reviews and expedited reinstatement for those who try to work and are unsuccessful.  None of the programs are ideal, but they can be navigated.  Even people that have not been approved for benefits fear how working will affect their pending case.  Surprise, the reality is that attempting to work part-time can actually help your case. 

    Why are not more people looking for work?  One reason may be getting a job is hard.  The unemployment rate for people with disabilities actively looking is about 13.7 percent compared to about 7.9 percent for the general population.  Is it fear of losing what benefits we have?  Has the system designed to help us actually painted us into a corner?  There is so much talent wasted.  How can we reach out to people to help build them a better life?  Does the system promote fear and discourage people?  How much richer would society be if we could reach even a small part of the eighty two percent?  Do you have any ideas?

  • 08 Aug 2012 4:36 PM | Lora Bigcraft (Administrator)

    Before Success: Someone Had To Believe

    By: Parrish L. Stahl

    As a baseball follower it is easy to marvel at the talent the Detroit Tigers put on the field.  Justin Verlander could possibly be the best pitcher in the game. Miguel Cabrera and Price Fielder are two of the premiere hitters in the history of the Tiger organization.  They are media super stars.  Professional athletes and successful people in general have something in common; someone somewhere along the line believed in them and let them pursue a dream.

    The odds of playing in the major leagues are astronomical.  There are no bad players in the majors; just a select few are elite though and every one of them have had to make dedication and family sacrifice a way of life.  I had a conversation with the mother of Tigers pitcher Phil Coke, and she said half-jokingly, “it is just little league all over again, the foods better though.”  We so often hear about the great salaries and forget the people behind the scenes that spend years supporting other people’s dreams. 

    No one can succeed in any walk of life unless other people are there to support them.  Someone drove every major leaguer to practice for years before they made it.  Before there was the manicured fields, air conditioned club houses, limousines, airplanes and catered food; there were dusty sand lots, burning hot summer days, broken down buses, shortages of equipment and sack lunches.  Even the greatest Tiger of all, Al Kaline, who came directly from high school to the Detroit Tigers in 1953 and has been with the organization as a player, broadcaster and executive ever since, needed people to believe in him at every step along the way.  Another famous man with very small hands wandered into a gym in Louisville, KY, mad because someone stole his bike.  He planned to do something criminal, but was headed off by someone who cared and channeled his passion.  That little boy grew up to be the 3-time Heavy Weight Champion, his name, Muhammad Ali.

    Someone saw potential in Bill Gates, Abraham Lincoln, Helen Keller, Elvis Presley and you if you are reading this.  Someone thought it was essential that you learned to read. If you see talent are you supporting it and fostering its development?  How much talent and ability is overlooked because no one was there to help?  We all have the potential to change the world.  Your life is not the only destiny you control.  What can you do to work on a better future?  History is full of little things that became huge victories.

    Even if you never became a professional, if you are successful there was a coach, parent, friend, relative, teacher, bus driver, or a perfect stranger that impacted your life in a positive way.  Roll models and inspirations are not limited to a select few.  Do not sell yourself short; we all have something to give. Let’s talk about your ideas! Who believed in you and what can you do to return the favor?

  • 07 Aug 2012 3:23 PM | Lora Bigcraft (Administrator)

    Folding Batteries Could Change the World

    By: Parrish L. Stahl

    The jump between this and scooters used by the disAbled community is a really narrow divide. I find it exciting. The big drawbacks to batteries are weight, cost and duration. We owe much of this technology advancement to the space program.

    We have largely solved duration problems and weights are coming down, but will people with disabilities be able to afford the technology that would help them maintain and gain independence? Must we be economically viable to make real systems change an ongoing endeavor? There is always a series of steps that helps things happen for all people.  Everyone needs reliable transportation, safe adequate housing and healthcare, but the system demands that people with disabilities live in poverty to get a safety net.

    We do not do a very good job at telling policy makers why we need access to technology that not only makes life a little easier, but plays a huge roll in making us an asset to the American melting pot instead of a drain. Something as simple as a truly light weight mobility device with a folding battery could make it possible for individuals to transport the device easily with a passenger car.  That would mean many of us wouldn’t need expensive vans.

    Is it not time we look in the mirror and hold ourselves accountable for why change does not happen sooner?  There are certain aspects of our life we cannot control, but there are things we can do.  Reach out and use your voice and together we will all be better off.  I believe one of our largest problems is our collective silence.  Am I wrong, if not, how can our base be energized? 

    The future is coming.  If you would like to read about the folding battery, click on the link below.

     http://gajitz.com/folding-battery-powered-scooter-has-small-footprints/

  • 17 Jul 2012 5:02 PM | Lora Bigcraft (Administrator)

    Do People with Disabilities Have a Responsibility?

    Parrish L. Stahl

    Trying to work toward an active lifestyle for people with disabilities is a long road.  Some of us have been working for decades to not only change physical access but also long standing systems and the mindsets of well meaning people who all too often have an almost exclusive caretaker attitude.  As much as we need help and support: we are only moving forward if that assistance comes in the right form. 

    We as people are sometimes guilty of letting others do too much for us.  Living with a significant disability is hard work and it is easy to say to ourselves “Look at how difficult my life is; I deserve to not have to deal with this”.  In the short term we get a break, but in the long term we do not get the benefit of life experience if someone takes care of everything for us.  For instance, how does one learn how to set up a household budget if someone else does that?  How do we learn how uncomfortable it is to be late on a bill and what the consequences are, if that never happens to you? People are shaped for better or worse by the things that happen to them.  People learn to make an omelet they enjoy by burning a few eggs and trying different combinations of ingredients until they get it right.

    So much has changed for the better since the Americans with Disabilities Act; although much of the change has been extremely slow in coming.  The idea behind the ADA was a grand desire by society to give all people a level playing field.  Now, in theory, we have access and more open minds.  Does anyone else ever wonder what we are going to do with it?  It is frustrating that for the most part we have access; no we do not live in a perfect world, but access to goods, services, and systems is available and many times is not utilized to its fullest.

    As advocates we hear things like we need more transportation, housing, recreational and entertainment opportunities.  The sad fact is many times hard working individuals are working at increasing access and even organizing recreational events and struggle to get people to be involved.  The question is how can we utilize all of the resources that we have?  Do you as a person with a disability put yourself in a position to let yourself be heard?  Do you make phone calls, write letters, and form relationships with decision makers? 

    It is extremely likely that when you form relationships you will also form allies.  Not just someone to be a caretaker but go to battle with you.  There is a lot of pressure associated with being one of the first to try something new but the rewards are worth it.  A decade ago a woman in a press box was a rarity, now it is more common place.  Someone had to blaze a trail.  A journalist using a wheelchair is not common yet, but hopefully there are young people with disabilities coming behind me who will try.  Every time I cover an event I feel a responsibility to build relationships with my fellow journalists.  What inevitably happens is that disability no longer defines who I am. 

    Are you building relationships?  Are you setting an example for people who are following you?  Do you feel a responsibility to other people with disabilities?

  • 24 May 2012 4:15 PM | Perry Stahl (Administrator)
    17 May 2012 1:42 PM | Jim Cyphers
    Hello everyone, first I'd like to introduce myself. I am a person with a disability. I am an employee of disAbility Connections (D.C.) and work as one of the Independent Living Specialists at D.C. Outside of my regular duties as paid staff here (which also includes being somewhat of a Social Security Disability expert) I've been involved in transportation issues for years advocating for accessable/affordable transportation for everyone. For the past three years I have held a position on the board of the Jackson Ttransportation Authority (JTA) and the LocaL Transportation Advisory Counsil (LTAC). I've been a user of the public transportation system in Jackson for over 30 years and am quit familiar with the needs of people with disabilities for transportation.

    I'd like to invite people to participate in a dialogue concerning transportation and all the issues surrounding it. I'll be posting updates from time to time and responding to comments or questions. My hope is that the information shared will encourage us all and create a positive atmosphere and a feeling of moving forward.
  • 23 May 2012 9:58 AM | Lora Bigcraft (Administrator)

    What are your Summer Plans?

    It is almost summer, the damp days of our Michigan Spring are giving way to beautiful blue sky days.  The flowers are in bloom all around exhibiting an  almost endless display of radiant colors. 

    Fair and festival season is upon us.  Is anyone planning to attend Michigan Center’s MI own Carp Carnival in June?  Some of my fondest childhood memories are of spending this time of year on and around Michigan Center Lake.  Camping, fishing, spearing, boat rides, just being outside and bon fires are forever part of my soul. 

    I get angry sometimes that my physical condition interferes with so many activities that I love.  I am always looking for ways to get outside and experience the great outdoors.  It’s funny sometimes how something as simple as the smell of fresh cut grass can make my soul feel lighter. 

    What are your summer plans?  Are local places and events your highlights or will you venture out of town.  Will you be visiting Comerica Park to cheer on our Detroit Tigers?  Will you attend a concert or two?  Visit the drive- in movies in Coldwater.  Are you going fishing, camping , hiking or is a trip to the casino more your speed?  Lets talk about our summer plans or summer wish list.  Do you have a great sugestion?  We can learn a lot from each other.

     

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